Stockport Harriers enjoy the high life in Ethiopia

Stockports HarriersCharlie Batho won a trip to Ethiopia with his Stockport Harriers club-mates and he tells about training at altitude and running alongside 37,000 fellow runners in the Great Ethiopian Run.

In my eyes, Ethiopia is famous for four things: coffee, the discovery of a 4.4 million year-old human skeleton, the 1980s famine that kick-started Band Aid, and their world-class long-distance runners.

Ethiopians treat any distance runner – fast or slow – like the Brits treat Premier League footballers, New Zealanders treat their All Blacks, and Norwegians treat their skiers. They’re treated with a God-like status.

Our 6.30am training runs saw us pass schoolchildren, impeccably dressed, wanting to give us high-fives and always with a huge smile on their faces. Sometimes they would run alongside us on the scorched dusty ground in flip-flops for a kilometre or two.

The first twenty-four hours of arriving in Addis Ababa read like a who’s-who of world long-distance runners. Julia Bleasdale, who was staying at the same high-altitude training camp, took us for an early morning training run with Olympic triathlon champion Alistair Brownlee.

Later that afternoon we met Kenenisa Bekele at his 400m track and jogged five laps with him. We also met Haile Gebrselassie each day who, as you would expect, never stopped smiling. And UK’s Richard Nerurkar and Kenyan Edna Kiplagat were also there doing circuits.

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